May Day and Beltain. One a socialist holiday and the other a neo-pagan cross-quarter holiday. Also, my mother’s birthday.
I love holidays and try to observe as many as I can as I am able. I enjoy the Celtic neo-pagan observances, as Ireland’s climate and seasons have been somewhat relevant to the places I’ve lived (except California, most of the Celtic and British holidays made no sense whatsoever there). While I am a huge fan of this holiday’s calendrical and thematic opposite, Samhain, Beltain rarely speaks to me. Is it because spring is often my down period? Getting into a festive mood, or even a sexy one (to honor the fertility of spring) has always been a challenge for me at this time of year. As I posted before, by June I’m usually in full swing. But now? I’m still recuperating, if that’s the right word.
I’m not sure why spring feels like recovery for me.
I grew up in Alaska, where the pull of light and dark is so much more extreme than anywhere else I’ve lived. At winter solstice, we had 18 hours 6 minutes of darkness, with very little twilight time. At summer solstice, we had 18 hours, 6 minutes of daylight, with twilights that lasted hours. I never suffered from seasonal affective disorder, though many people I knew struggled with the dark (and wet, grey) periods. I felt the light and dark in my bones. Spring and autumn were essentially non-existent seasons in SE Alaska. They lasted all of two weeks, maybe 3 or 4 weeks in a good year. I didn’t know that October was my favorite month, that it could be the best, rather than the absolute worst, month until I moved to Washington state for college. So while I’ve embraced autumn, spring still feels like the least familiar of the seasons to me. My springish hesitation doesn’t make any sense. Maybe there’s a different reason altogether.
So Beltain…. I’ve just never really felt it.
But here, in Olympia, spring is most definitely, gloriously here: lush, colorful, moist, changeable, verdant. Looking up from my computer and peering through the window into the back yard I see six different shades of green, the bright pink of some rhododendrons, a host of periwinkle bluebells, an unidentified plant with yellowy-orange shoots about to bloom, the gentle purple of a lilac tree (my favorite scent ever), and the hot pink buds of some decorative flower. It’s a riot out there.
One of the great things about Olympia is its Procession of the Species parade. It occurs every year at the end of April. I went this year and it was hands down the best parade I’ve ever seen. I was giddy. To me the entire weekend – a community wide arts walk, a luminary procession the night before (past the kids’ bedtimes, alas), and the parade itself – is a kind of Beltain celebration. [Since I remain without a camera, please click here to see some photos.]
Another spin on May Day is the socialist history of the day. Today is a big day of Occupy protests. I normally leave politics out of this blog, but I feel bringing up Occupy is relevant. Beltain is a tricky holiday. Its Pagan roots and neo-pagan flavors are about sex, fertility, the explosion of energy that spring brings, as well as the connection to and gratitude for a fertile earth that provides for us. It’s anarchic at its core – as all free and enthusiastic acts of fertility are. It is a perfect spiritual counterpart to the socialist and anarchic activities of the political May Day.
I doubt you will be surprised to learn that I am fully supportive of the Occupy Movement/s. Anarchy is advanced living, and I am all for a world where we have the inner strength of ethics that would allow us to pursue our own interests without infringing on the well-being of others.
What’s amusing to me is that Occupy started last fall, while I was living in rural Wales and today is my first opportunity to check out the Occupy movement in person…. yet my plans were foiled by my son, who scheduled his own hair appointment for today. During the arts walk my family was checking out some incredibly beautiful woodwork, hosted at one of the salons downtown. My almost, but not quite yet, 4-year-old son recognized that it was a salon and asked us if he could get his hair cut. We encouraged him to ask the owner of the salon, and ten minutes later he had an appointment card for today. He is so excited. So much for protesting and refusing to buy anything today.
How are you celebrating spring? Are you honoring May Day in some way?
I have decided that Olympia’s Procession of the Species weekend is my Beltain celebration. I’ll support the socialist May Day ideals by shopping locally (as usual). And after I post this I’ll take my cup of tea, go sit on my porch and let the wind blow around me. I’ll count all the colors I see and smell the air and just be grateful for abundance all around me.
Verdant blessings to all!